The Virginia Department of Health has fined the developer who wants to build 57 town houses on arsenic-contaminated land near the Alexandria waterfront, a total of $30,000, in connection with three alleged violations of the state's health and safety laws.
The department cited Development Resources, Inc., with "willful violation" of the safety provisions, which require the company to warn workers about the dangers posed by the arsenic, and with failure to provide them with the necessary protective equipment. A third citation said the company had allowed workers to eat and drink while on the site, a violation of health regulations.
At the same time, the state health department fined Atec Associates of Columbia a total of $3,000 in connection with three "serious" violations of the same health and safety laws. Atec was taking soil samples on the site under contract for Development Resources.
Dr. Robert S. Shapiro, assistant health commissioner in Virginia, said that under the state's Occupational Safety and Health Pain state inspectors are required to impose the maximum penalty.
But Shapiro added that if the companies contest the citations the issue would go to a general district court where a judge can reduce the penalities under specific criteria established by state law. Such criteria would include the size the the company and whether the company has been previously cited for similar violations.
Clea Jalali, vice president of Development Resources, said the company would take the issue to court. "We're not even certain that we're responsible because there was a certain confusion as to what the guidelines were," she said. Atec could not be reached for comment.
The incident that led to the citations occurred on Sept. 16 when Atec workers began soil tests. About the same time, a television news crew from station WJLA (Channel 7) arrived to film an interview with Alexandria Councilwoman Ellen Pickering, a long-time opponent of the town house plan.
The station filmed the men working without protective clothing, Shapiro said. The newsfilm was viewed by health officials prior to issuing the citations, he said.